In just a few short years, weed has gone from contraband to a highly coveted commodity. While the movement to legalize marijuana across the country is a stoner's dream come true, it's important not to forget the role race plays in the history and future of "Mary Jane."
Sex and the City star and current New York mayoral candidate Cynthia Nixon learned that lesson the hard way when she made a statement this week comparing the legalization of marijuana to reparations for slavery:
“Now that cannabis is exploding as an industry, we have to make sure that those communities that have been harmed and devastated by marijuana arrests get the first shot at this industry,” Nixon told Forbes. “We [must] prioritize them in terms of licenses. It’s a form of reparations.”
The clapback from Black Twitter was swift:
Nixon must have had good intentions with her comments, and any woke marijuana activist would agree that Black and brown folks deserve to be first in line to benefit from the legalization of a product that criminalized so many of us over the years (not to mention the extremely racist origins behind making weed illegal, in the first place), but the candidate clearly has a lot more to learn about the intersection of pot, politics and power.
To help her unpack this "loaded" issue, here are a few famous marijuana activists whom she can sit down with for some perspective:
Snoop Dogg is arguably one of the most well-known advocates and endorsers of marijuana in the public eye. In fact, in an interview, he explained that there is more depth to the consumption of the substance than meets the eye.
"I feel like marijuana is a real peace conversation – what I mean by that is the form of peace in a conversation," he told Esqiure. "Any time you have a couple of people smoking, they're never hostile or angry. The area that we're in now, I'm thankful that they're trying to make it legalized because, with alcohol and tobacco, you see all the tragedies that have happened with that. I'm glad that we can see something different. As far as me being on the forefront and pushing, for a long time I was on the wrong side and now I'm on the right side. Being able to have a network and having a television show, I show that it's fun, it's cool and the hustle of it all."
Rihanna has often made tongue-in-cheek commentary about the benefit of marijuana and has made it no secret that she is an avid user of the substance. While her approach to it may seem comical, on the surface, she debunks the stereotype that marijuana makes one "lazy" and proves that Black women also deserve a piece of the pie.
Morgan Freeman, in an interview with The Daily Beast, revealed that the substance helped him overcome pain he was experiencing in his arm. He claims that unlike any other medication, marijuana seemed to be the only one to remedy the pain.
“I have fibromyalgia pain in my arm, and the only thing that offers any relief is marijuana... They’re talking about kids who have grand mal seizures, and they’ve discovered that marijuana eases that down to where these children can have a life. That right there, to me, says, ‘legalize it across the board!’
Like Freeman, EGOT-winner Whoopi Goldberg revealed that marijuana helped her deal with physical pain she was experiencing as she got older. Specifically, her reasonings show that the substance can be beneficial to women.
"I have a daughter and three granddaughters and, once upon a time, I too suffered from horrible cramps," Goldberg told Munchies about her own cannabis product. "In talking with different people about the medicinal aspects of marijuana, however, I would tell them that smoking a joint (before I stopped smoking) used to help dramatically, but I've never found a cannabis product specifically designed to treat menstrual discomfort."
The United States of America's 44th president, Barack Obama, is another advocate for the legalization of marijuana, speaking publicly on the unwarranted stigma against it.
"I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea," Obama told Rolling Stone. "But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”
Former television personality Montel Williams is another figure whose advocacy runs deep. Sharing his stance long before it was deemed "trendy" to do so, Williams explained how marijuana basically saved his life.
"If I stop here right now and concentrate, it'd be right here," Williams told News 10. "When I say pain, I have extreme neuropathic pain in my feet that feels like somebody is taking a hot poker and just shoving it right up the bottom of that bone and cracking it off."
Having multiple sclerosis, he added that the drug is the only way he can get through the pain.
"Take a big hit of what I got and it goes right away," Williams said.
Legendary actor Danny Glover's advocacy goes beyond the surface as he is an experienced fighter for the wider effects that marijuana legalization may have on the African-American and Latino communities.
In 2010, Glover joined several other celebrities in support of Proposition 19 in hopes that it would bring down law enforcement costs and lessen the targeting of minorities in marijuana-related crimes.
"I come from firsthand experience in my own family because I've had brothers that have been arrested for marijuana use," he said in an interview.
Following in the footsteps of one of his inspirations, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa revealed that he once had a stigma against the substance but quickly became an avid user and advocate.
"I thought weed was bad for a minute," he said. "When I was younger, I thought it was bad, but I got to a point where it worked for me. It don't work for everybody else. People gotta stay free, people need jobs, people got parents that probably wouldn't be with it, so don't ruin your life trying to be like me. That's my advice."
When asked if he thinks marijuana should be legalized, Wiz told MTV News, "Definitely, legalize it. Please, everybody needs it. The world would be a better place."
Mike Tyson, at the top of 2018, broke ground with his latest venture, which he dubbed an oasis in the desert. The former boxing champion opened Tyson Ranch in California City and, according to USA Today, "will use 20 acres to give professional growers a chance to cultivate new strains and technology to advance research on the medicinal benefits of marijuana."
Jigga infamously revealed in an interview that marijuana actually helped him finish his iconic song "Izzo," taking from his 2001 studio album, The Blueprint.
"That record was maybe the last one," he said, according to XXL. "I was touching it, then I'd leave it alone. That record was, like, a process. I remember ... I don't smoke that much ... Well, my man who sold weed and shit came, and he said, 'Man, you need — man, just smoke some weed.' I smoked some weed, and that's how I finished 'Izzo.'"
More recently, Jay-Z also penned an opinion piece about this issue titled "The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail" for the New York Times.
Lamar Odom has had quite the troubled and eventful life, some would say, but as he worked towards his sobriety and got things in order, the former NBA star revealed that marijuana actually helped keep him on track and aided in his recovery from his stroke.
“Marijuana has helped, especially with my stroke,” Odom told PEOPLE. “With my coordination, my balance, and my overall physical attributes—all my doctors say I’m a walking miracle. I think marijuana attributed to that.”
(Photos from left: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images, Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images, George Pimentel/Getty Images)